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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2358


Senator HANSON (Queensland) (11:18): Let me put it on the record: One Nation is totally opposed to any sale of our assets. I have said, for the last 22 years, that neither our infrastructure, such as water, sewage, telecommunications and electricity, nor our defence services should ever, in any way, shape or form, end up in the hands of foreigners; these services should always remain in the hands of the government and be produced at a reasonable cost for the people of Australia.

I find it amazing that we have before us the Security of Critical Infrastructure Bill 2017. It basically says that owners and operators of prescribed ports, electricity and water assets will be required to provide information detailing the operational and ownership control arrangements of their assets. The government may direct these owners and operators to do, or not do, certain things with respect to their asset when there is a perceived risk to national security. That beggars belief. I can't believe that—'a perceived risk to national security'—when we've allowed our most important assets to be sold to foreign ownership.

Let's go back here:

Both Federal and state governments have put the issue of privatising government assets firmly on the agenda.

At the time it was former coalition federal Treasurer Joe Hockey who:

… indicated at the recent meeting of COAG that the states should look closely at privatising infrastructure …

It was not just the coalition but also the Labor Party in Queensland. Under a then Labor government, it:

… started the recent process by privatising the Port of Brisbane in 2010 (selling a 99-year lease for what is now a seemingly cheap $2.1 billion) in order to replenish its empty Treasury coffers.

That's what it comes down to, empty Treasury coffers, because neither side can actually manage the cheque book. When it gets to this point they say, 'Let's just sell off the assets.' That is clearly what happened with this selling off of our assets and the rising costs of electricity.

Apart from the renewable energy and the billions of dollars we're paying to prop it up, the cost is escalating, because these companies own the power plants, just like what happened in South Australia. A foreigner owned the power plant in South Australia. It has the highest cost, along with Queensland, in the world for electricity—privatisation.

Have a look at the recent article titled 'Australian port sold for $7.3 billion to consortium; China fund among backers'. It states:

A consortium of global and domestic funds, backed by investors including China Investment Corp, agreed to buy Australia's busiest port for a higher-than-expected A$9.7 billion … a sign that tough equity markets are helping fuel appetite for infrastructure.

We're selling stuff to Canada on the superannuation. It goes on to say:

The sell-off is part of Australia's more than A$100 billion privatization program, where state and federal governments are trying to cut debt and bankroll capital works by selling "mature" infrastructure assets—

that they will control. Let me tell you something: I'm not an economist, but the fact is that companies buy these infrastructure projects to make money out of them. It's not about providing a service and feeling good about it. It's all about what they can make out of it. A lot of the time they don't even pay tax in this country, but we're allowing them to take over important assets. What about the 99-year lease of the Darwin Port? This is where crucial product comes into our country, into our ports, and they own the ports. They can charge whatever they want from when they have ownership and we've got no control over it. More about ports:

New South Wales (under a Coalition Government) followed Queensland's lead by selling Port Botany and Port Kembla in 2012 and raking in a healthy $5.1 billion … The NSW Treasurer, Mike Baird, has also just announced that expressions of interest are open for a 98-year lease for the Port of Newcastle.

And you had the then Victorian opposition leader, Daniel Andrews—Labor—who proposed to 'sell a long-term lease of the Port of Melbourne as the cornerstone of their Project 10,000'. They can't manage money, so they're selling all the assets. These assets are owned by the people, and yet governments are selling them off.

This is what I was saying about Canada:

… The Future Fund, and Canada's Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System will each get a fifth of Port of Melbourne following the sale, which is packaged as a 50-year lease.

Everyone around the world thinks that Australia is a good investment but the Australian government itself. Then, just recently, didn't we hear the coalition government talking about using our trillion-dollar fund to go to America and buy infrastructure over there? We're investing over there but we're not investing in our own country with our dollars. What about us? People are screaming out for the infrastructure that we need here. These bills beggar belief.

You're selling off all our important assets. You allowed the sale of Cubbie Station—another important landmark owned by Australians—and it was sold to the Chinese. Cubbie Station is important for its water, and yet we've sold it. We've sold so much of our land to foreigners. Our public housing is being sold to foreigners, putting it out of the hands of Australians who want to own their own homes but can't afford to.

This is not just one side of politics; this is both sides. We have seen it for years and years. Both the coalition and Labor have done absolutely nothing about it. You keep speaking the same old rhetoric all the time. Once you're in opposition, you blame the other side as if they're the ones that have caused it. You're both to blame for this. You both have actually destroyed this country. You're getting rid of our important infrastructure. That's why electricity costs are going up and up and up. You're selling off our ports. You've sold off land in this country. You've put in place legislation to stop the foreign ownership of housing here, but you don't follow through. All you've done is to put more and more red tape on it, to make it look as if you're doing the right thing, but you don't follow through. You're tying us up so tightly in this country but you're not addressing the real concerns of the Australian people. So stop blaming each other and do something about it.

By introducing this bill, yes, you're calling for accountability. But the horse has bolted. Now what are we going to do about it? Well, we'd better address this for security reasons. Is that going to stop you from allowing foreign ownership of our most important assets in this country? I don't think so—because you're trying to catch up, because we're in so much debt. Look at where you are wasting the moneys, in a lot of these bureaucrats' wages, as I pointed out. You were paying the CEO of Australia Post $5.6 million a year, which was ridiculous. What a lot of these CEOs get paid is over the top. The number of public servants and all these consultants' fees that you've been paying are over the top. I cannot believe that you've got to the stage where you've got to sell our assets—the taxpayers' assets—to balance the books!

One Nation will be supporting this bill. But I had to have my say over this, because it beggars belief that you've allowed things to get to this stage. I'd suggest that you really have a good look at who is putting in to buy up our assets in this country, and say, 'No!' Start holding on to our assets for the Australian people. You've given so much control to other countries, it's an absolute disgrace!